League of Legends / World of Warcraft Christmas Stocking Custom

It's been forever since I posted and quite awhile since Christmas, obviously.  Regardless, I wanted to share this adorable stocking I made for my boyfriend.  He came to my place for Christmas and I didn't want him to feel left out of the stocking part of things, so I made this for him and filled it up.

I used to love Warcraft and he humored me by playing it a bit with me.  He loves League of Legends so I learned how to play for him.  I decided to combine both and make something cute and personal.

First, I took the World of Warcraft logo, and removed the words, so I was left with the overall shape and texture:

Next, I traced that with my Silhouette Cameo so it'd be a separate cut file.

I wrote his name with the Warcraft-style font found here: http://www.dafont.com/lifecraft.font and added some contrasting border to the letters.

The next thing I did was start looking around for holiday-themed League of Legends images.  This wasn't hard, as they even put earmuffs on one of the miniboss style mobs during the game that time of year.

One adorable Christmas-fied minion later, I had everything in my Silhouette Studio program and traced for cutting.  First was obviously printing- I used Avery Inkject Paper for Dark Colors as this type of paper is basically fabric that you print on, cut, and iron on.  If you use paper for light colors, you're basically just transferring ink, so it doesn't work on dark colors and not very well on textures either.  This stocking is red & fuzzy, so dark it is.  Everything cut without a hitch in the Cameo- settings were for HTV but I ramped the blade up a notch.

I don't have a heat press, so I used an iron on the highest settings with a piece of teflon in between the transfer and the iron.  It took a bit of time and pressure due to the texture of the iron, but I think ti was completely worth the effort:

My boyfriend told me that he shared it with some online gaming groups and it was pretty well received, so that made me happy :)  It was his idea to post it here too, so hopefully I'll be around and more active again!  Can't wait to see the new machines Silhouette has coming out next month!


Red Velvet hair for next to no cost at home

I have gotten pretty bad at keeping this up.  Honestly, I'm a little overwhelmed by the e-mails I get about a few reviews I've done, and more than once I've been contacted about free products to try but that really isn't my thing.  I started this blog because when Pinterest exploded I realized how few truly impartial reviews are out there.  I'm human and what may work for me may not work for you, and vice versa, but I'm happy to post honest, unbiased, unsponsored reviews of anything that catches my eye (when I actually do it anyway!).

So we left off here in my attempt to DIY red velvet hair.  I was testing the effectiveness of Manic Panic bleach, as all I was getting was a dark brown plum color and not bright red.  I had brought Pravana Vivids hair color and strand tested it several times but it just was not going to work without pre lightening.  Well, even on the spot on bleached in that last post, it didn't stick!  I can't tell you how sad I was.  Pravana has amazing reviews.

I kept googling around and kept coming across L'oreal Hicolor Hilights for Dark Hair  (not an affiliate link).  I had seen some bloggers who again just got a red tint, though better than any tint I managed in the past, and some who got gorgeous, nearly Ariel hair color.  I bought a tube of Magenta and a tube of Red at Sally's for around $5 each, plus a bottle of Orero Developer in 30 Volume for under $4.  Pay attention to the box- you want Hicolor Hilights, but it's wonderful for doing your whole head.  I already had a mixing bowl and gloves, and if you like to use a brush, you need one of those too.  I can say from several strand tests and several root retouch sessions that there is no color difference on my hair between Red and Magenta.

The box says 2.4 oz developer to 1 tube color, but I didn't feeling like dealing with that, so I just eyeballed 2.5 in my bowl (which is labeled 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, no halves or quarters or .4s) and squeezed out the color tube.  I mix it up with a leftover chopstick until there are no red lumps, put on my gloves, and spread it all over my head.  Even when doing root growth I will still do all over color to brighten it up.  When my hair is saturated I will put it in a ponytail and hit it with the blow dryer for 5 minutes.  I then put a plastic bag over my hair and wrap the whole thing in a towel.  15 minutes later I will blow dry for 5 more minutes over the bag and then rewrap the towel for 15 more minutes, at which point I rinse.  I rinse in cold water and it's mostly clear after 5 minutes.  I then condition, usually with Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Moist, rinse that out, and go on my way.

To maintain, well, I really don't.  After the initial rinse I start taking hot showers again and I shower almost every day, 2 bad things for maintaining red, but this really doesn't fade.  I use Ulta's Red shampoo, conditioner, and every week or so the color depositing glaze from that line (not affiliate links), but it seems like a red-brown stain, and maybe that's why I lose vibrancy but not color?  Maybe I won't use the glaze for the next 6 weeks and compare.  I've also used a volumizing shampoo and a hotel shampoo without any issues, and if I really want my hair to look great or just every so often for hair health I will use Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Moist again.

It loses its shocking vibrancy over time, but not it's red color.  I hope the pics I will be showing you in a sec will help make that clear.  It does not fade to gingery-bleachy-auburny-browny-ick.  I do a root touchup and a head refresh every 6 weeks or so.  For that, I do the same thing as I've already described, but skip the heat since my roots take to color better than my length (has to do with the heat of your scalp and your type of virgin hair, because of hair type you may or may not have similar results with that method).

As for staining- I do not do a Vaseline barrier on my hairline/ears, but this has never stained my skin after I rinse everything off.  This does leave a red tint on my shower floor, but if I pour bleach over it and let it sit for 10 minutes and then rinse, that tint is gone.  It will stain towels/clothes when it's in it's dye form, but I've had no issues with wet hair post-dye transferring to bed sheets, clothing, etc.  My shower water never runs 100% clear but the pink tint that still rinses out is so faint that you probably won't notice if you aren't looking for it.

Ok on to photos.  Please note- how the red color is NOT ginger after 6 weeks, and how dark brown my roots are.  While this product is mixed with a developer, I didn't have to pre-lighten it or bleach it or anything harsh like that.  My hair is remarkable undamaged after all it's initial abuse and now regular use of this product.

Please also note...would you call this magenta?  I wouldn't.  That's why I noted I saw no color difference.  Red and Magenta look the same on me.  I haven't tried any other colors.  I would love a darker, more magenta color for real, but I'm happy with this!  Photos taken in same window-less bathroom about 1 hour apart.  I will update with weekly photos over the next 6 weeks to show on the vibrancy and color changes over that time, and I will not use the color depositing glaze I mentioned just in case that affected things.


Manic Panic Flashlightning Bleach Before & After Review- on the journey to Red Velvet hair

Generally I post pics and reviews of things when I myself had looked for reviews and hadn't found any, or hadn't found the info I needed.  In this case, I wanted to bleach my dyed hair (as part of a whole hair change experiment of sorts, I guess) and couldn't find much before & after for the Manic Panic dye.  I've read that it's effective and gentle, and it's in a kit so it's nearly idiot-proof, but even in Youtube reviews I generally mostly saw only the after and the person just talked at the camera.  Or it would say it was a bleach review, but then you watch and they had actually used Color Zapp and then bleached 4x in one week (OMG, how does she still have hair???).  Anyway, I review things in hopes of helping, I don't get free products, paid to review, or even use affiliate links.  Click the links to buy the products or don't, I don't make money off it either way and I somewhat distrust reviews like that.

So, hair history.  My hair is light brown and I've been dying it dark for a long time.  I've also wanted Red Velvet hair for a long time.  First I tried L'oreal Power Reds in R48, over hair that had been dyed a few months prior with John Frieda 4N.  Power Reds are popular but also very hit or miss.  I was a miss.  I got nearly black hair with some red glint in the sun, like cherry coke I guess.  Pretty, but not what I wanted.

This is with a flash or else you wouldn't see anything but darkness.  It's pretty here, but it was nothing like this unless I was standing still in bright sunlight.

 After trying to fade it in the shower for about 2 weeks, I bought Manic Panic Amplified in Vampire Red.  Due to the before and after pics on their site, including the unbleached ones, I thought I'd be good.  Nope!  My hair turned faintly purple with a bit more red in the light.  It was actually gorgeous so I left it for awhile.  Keep in mind, my hair was DARKER than the pic above shows, before using the MP dye.

Ok, so still not red velvet.  After looking at these swatches and their claim to lift dark hair, no pre-bleaching needed, I chose L'oreal Hicolor in Dark Auburn Red with a 30 vol. developer.  I didn't really want to but I figured this is better than straight up bleaching.  Well, it didn't really work.  In fact, in normal light I just have dark brown hair again.  In sunlight there's SOME red.  I took this literally standing in bright sunlight.  I also used Ulta shampoo, conditioner, and glaze for red hair, but the reviews on that are so-so and I'm not sure they really help.

So now, I'm kind of at that point.  Screw it, I'm going to need to bleach.  But I've damaged my hair so much, haven't I?  Test strand time.

I grabbed some Manic Panic Flash Lightning in Vol. 30 and bleached a test strand of my hair from a few inches down to the ends.  I wrapped it in foil and left it on for 90 minutes before rinsing it out.  I wasn't sure what to think.  To me it actually looked like a nice red, but in photos and to my 4 year old, it was orange, so there went my dreams of bleaching once and being done.

I decided to bleach the bottom half of what I had already bleached a 2nd time, so I conditioned, left it on for a half hour, rinsed, dried, and re-bleached.  Don't do this to your whole head.  This is a small test strand and I was fully prepared for it to fall off at this point. 

I reapplied bleach to the bottom, wrapped in foil, and left it in for another 90 minutes.  Rinse, condition, rinse, dry, voila.  

See how most of my hair just looks dark brown?  Yeah.  Sigh.

I don't really know what to call the bottom color.  It's light orange.  That's the best I can think of.   However, it was bleached twice for a total of 180 minutes, or 3 hours, in the span of about 5 hours, and it's not fried, so that's a plus.

My downside to the MP?  This is all the bleach you get.  You get a decent amount of developer, but this packet mixed with developer isn't all that much more product in volume, so if you have long hair, I'd buy at least two, if not 3 of these kits if this is what you want to use.

My next step is attempting an ombre ponytail bleaching and then trying out my Pravana reds and magentas!  I hear they're the best unnatural color dyes on the market, so I'm really excited try this out.  I'll use my test strand first to see it on undyed, 1 bleach, and 2 bleach hair and see how much bleaching I really need to do.  I'm hoping none, 1 worst case scenario, but I'll update when I figure out what I'm doing :)



It's been awhile...anyone still out there?

I've been playing a lot with makeup lately, which isn't like me, but it's fun!  I always wished I had big, long lashes and I'm not interested in extensions any more.  I've tried two mascaras, Benefit They're Real and Smashbox Full Exposure, along with Younique 3D Fiber Lashes (I DO NOT sell them, fyi!) and Ardell false lashes in Wispies.  I also played with the old staple, Great Lash, that I've never actually liked but seems to always make "Best of" lists and NYX Doll Eyes which seems to have a cult following (it's in the drug store section at Ulta but I'm not sure it's a drug store brand.  It's cheap though).

Comparison pics, in order:

No mascara- nuff said

Younique 3D fiber mascara ($32ish shipping from younique's website)- I hate that you have to buy this stuff via a consultant (even on the company's website) but the effort required is minimal and it's comparable to the fake lashes.  One coat of gel, one coat of fiber lashes from 1/2 way up my lashes to ends, another coat of gel.  Bam.  Done.  If it appears to have a clump of fibers on my lashes I just hit it with a lash comb.  It lasts all day and seems waterproof (tear proof, rain proof, haven't gone swimming) as well.  I have Smashbox Full Exposure on my bottom lashes in this photo.

Ardell false lashes ($4.49/pair, $6.99 for Duo gel, $6.99 for a false lash applicator that is a toss up on helpfulness, everything from Sally's)- I'm using Duo gel and I trimmed about 1/4" off in the inside ends of these.  Putting them on was a PITA.  Duo gel smells, it's messy, it does take practice and you better have a good way to wipe the glue off your cheeks when you smear it trying to wash your eye area (tip, baby oil on a cotton ball works well in a pinch), you can kind of "feel" them, and also, I trimmed the length once they were on my eye as they were literally touching my eyelashes.  I like the look, I don't like the effort.  In the photo, I have just a touch of Benefit They're Real on my bottom lashes and have combed through to combine my real and false lashes.

Benefit They're Real! mascara ($23, Sephora)-  This is probably my favorite mascara brush ever, but the mascara itself seems average.  I put on a coat, then other eye, then back to first eye for coat 2, and repeat on eye 2.  Seems to have good staying power but is NOT waterproof.  This is on my bottom lashes as well.

Smashbox Full Exposure ($19.50, Sephora)- This is my favorite mascara, but given the choice I use the Fiber Lashes.  I keep this in my purse or travel kit as I don't like how Fiber Lashes is 2 tubes to pack instead of 1.  My lashes look really full and long but it does seem to flake.  I like to use Anastasia Lash Genius Waterproof Topcoat ($21, Sephora) over the top to help with that.  For comparison purposes I am NOT using Anastasia in this photo.  This is on my bottom lashes as well.

NYX Doll Eyes ($6.99, Ulta)- this is cheap, but I do feel like it elongated my lashes pretty well.  If I needed a mascara in a hurry, the drugstore is where I'd head, and I'd look for this over Great Lash any day.  This is on my bottom lashes as well.

Maybelline Great Lash ($2.99, CVS)- It's cheap and it does make a difference vs no mascara, but it's not even in the realm of favorites for me compared to above.  This is on my bottom lashes as well.

Summarize:  I like the look of the false lashes (especially the cost, in comparison!) but for ease and comfort I like the fiber lashes.  Full Exposure is my other favorite, which is even easier than fiber lashes and cheaper as well.  I like to use Anastasia Lash Genius on the top of Full Exposure, which negates the cost effectiveness, but makes it pretty much bullet proof.  I don't get the hype of Benefit "They're Real!" or Nyx/Maybelline value drugstore mascaras.


The dark side

I haven't posted in over a month.  Nothing crafty, nothing yummy, nothing breast-pump-y.  I still have nothing to talk about except, if you think you are suffering from post partum depression, I recommend two things.  One is required.  Call your doctor.  Don't worry about sounding stupid, about not wanting to talk about things, about medications.  Research the medications, especially if you're breastfeeding, and ask for one you're comfortable with.  The second thing is optional, but you might find it helpful if you can't talk to your doctor right away (like, say, you hit rock bottom on a Saturday, but aren't a danger and don't want to go to the hospital.  DO go straight to the ER if you think you may harm yourself or your kids!).  Download or buy Brooke Shields' book "Down Came the Rain" and read it and re-read it until you get help.  There are lots of books about PPD out there, but hers really spoke to me.

Help is out there and if you ask for it, that makes you stronger than you realize.


Medela Easy Expression Bustier vs Simple Wishes Hands Free Pumping Bra

When I was first starting out with my breast pump I quickly realized that hands-free pumping is the way to go.  Hands free means I can feed the baby, help my toddler, browse on my laptop, read on my iPad, or even just have two free hands to massage my boobs.  I started out by cutting slits in some comfy, stretchy nursing bras (these ones, in fact) and then I realized well, I just cut holes in the only two nursing bras that I have.  With nursing pads in and nursing shirts, which tend to have two layers over the chest area, you couldn't tell but it was not pretty.  I'll pull up my shirt for my personal trainer to measure my stomach and it'd be awkward.  On the other hand, they worked GREAT and since I would wear them all day it made setting up for pumping pretty quick.

I then bought some "real" nursing bras and did not want to cut them but also didn't want to change my bra just to pump hands free, so I bought the Medela Easy Expressions Bustier.  It took a few minutes to get it on and off and it's certainly not pretty but it was functional.  I kept reading that the Simple Wishes bras were much better than the Medela bustier, but I didn't really think much of it because a bra with hole is a bra with holes, ya know?  But then curiosity got the better of me the more I got frustrated with my Medela, so I ordered the Simple Wishes.  This post is for anyone out there who thinks the bra doesn't really matter...it does!!!  There IS a big difference.

First of all, the Medela bustier zips up the front.  The Simple Wishes both zips up the front AND ties in the back.  There's also a velcro backed version.  Simple Wishes also sells 1" and 2" extenders that you would zip into the front like an extra panel to adjust the width and therefore the spacing of the holes.  Speaking of the zipper, Simple Wishes has fabric behind the zipper so it doesn't dig into your skin.  The Medela has much stretchier fabric in my opinion.  I think that is why the Simple Wishes looks so much larger in this first photo.

The next difference for me was comfort.  The Medela has a little bit of decorative scallopy lacy something on the bottom and it's a bit more pronounced on the top.  It irritates my skin.  The Simple Wishes is bound smoothly.

Top of bras
Bottom of bras

Also in the Comfort area is the shape.  The Simple Wishes is angled towards the back to naturally go under your armpits.  The Medela tends to dig into my armpits.

The Simple Wishes has optional bra straps.  The Medela does not.

Ok so, modesty.  It's hard to be modest while pumping and chances are if you're pumping around someone you already don't care if they get a peek.  The Simple Wishes is at least a little less "these are UDDERS!" looking.  It has two panels on the front and the back that form the opening and hide most of the flared part of the flange.  The Medela just has holes.

Speaking of the holes, the Medela holes are kind of angled down.  I feel like they make my nipples point down and it makes my boobs look saggy.  I know pumping isn't exactly attractive to start with, but why torture yourself?  I tried to line up the two on top of each other so you could see what I mean.  The Medela holes are clearly lined up to be where the bottom of the Simple Wishes holes are.  This makes me feel like the Medela is just going to slide down off my chest.  The Medela is folded down to help you see the comparison to the Simple Wishes holes.

The one thing i would change is make the entire panel taller so that it covers my entire breast.  The way it hits underneath my breasts feels odd.  I also don't know why it has bra strap loops on the bottom, but they don't bother me. The big clip is from my nursing bra being unsnapped for pumping.  Also, see the part for the flange?  You can't see the flange!

I don't have a photo for this one, but speed.  Because I don't have to stretch the Simple Wishes as I wrap it around me I can put it on much faster than the Medela.  A bigger size Medela wouldn't hold the flanges against me, so I know it's not that mine is too small.  I leave the Simple Wishes tied in the back and just zip up the front and it's so much easier.

This might seem like a crazy long and detailed review of something pretty insignificant, but if you spend any length of time pumping you'll learn how important it is to have a good-fitting bra, just like any other time.  Overall the Simple Wishes is quicker to put on, more comfortable to wear, more modest, and gives you a more custom fit.  I personally didn't feel that there was a difference until I tried it for myself.

Since I've reviewed a lot of stuff lately I felt the need to point out, I do not get product to review, I do not get free products, I do not get paid for reviews, and I make no money doing this.  I realized when I first started using Pinterest that unbiased reviews were few and far between so I set out to fill that gap.  Even if a blogger truly LOVES a product when I realize they either got it for free in exchange for the review or were paid for the review, I feel the credibility of the review is undermined.


The Freemie Update, 1 Week Later

So about a week ago I got my Freemie Cups.  You can see my initial review and my "later that same day" review here.

I've been using, washing, and experimenting with these on and off all week.  They have not replaced my normal Medela parts but they do have their moments of usefulness.  Cradling my baby is MUCH easier with the Freemies, in fact, it's nearly impossible with Medela bottles hanging down.  I also don't mind pumping around other people as much since my shirt covers everything.  On the flip side, you need a stretchy bra that you don't care about eventually stretching out.  Non-stretchy bras probably won't accommodate a Freemie cup.  If you don't want to stretch out a bra or buy a stretchy one I think the Simple Wishes Special Edition Hands Free Bra (the cheaper version with the tie-back) is a great choice as you can adjust the band by tying it looser or tighter, thus accommodating more or less space as needed.  Note- I have a review of the Simple Wishes Bra vs the Medela Bustier, with tons of side by side pics, coming in the next day or so.

So, later impressions.

1)  The branding on the cups isn't meant to stand up to washing, it seems.  I use them 1-2x day and only steam sanitized before first use.  I wash in Medela Breastmilk Dissolving Soap.  I'm disappointed to see this happening, though it doesn't effect function obviously.

2)  Pumpin Pals in the Freemie Cups.  This is probably the question I have been asked the most.  It makes me think I should do a side by side review of the Pumpin Pals vs the Medela Flanges because now I'll probably get more questions!  For the sake of brevity I'll just say for now that Pumpin Pals fit and are angled differently, yet fit in your Medela connectors, for comfort, some say increased supply, and mimic baby's mouth action better.  They have die-hard fans who won't (or can't, due to pain) use anything else.

So I stuck a Pumpin Pal in a Freemie Cup.  First impression here- it sticks out a LOT.  I think the ONLY way to accommodate this setup would be the Simple Wishes tie-back bra so you could leave enough room in the band to hold everything against you.

Second impression...wow!  I turned my Medela Symphony on Let Down 5 as I normally do and didn't feel much.  Bumped it up to Let Down 8 and it felt just like Let Down 5 normally!  I got good suction and no leaks as the long part of the flange was deep enough inside the Freemie for the milk to collect as normal.  Color me SHOCKED, I advised people not to get their hopes up, but I do think it's a possibly (but awkward) set up.

3)  Milk collection.  Freemie states "Freemie Collection Cups feature two 8-oz concealable collection cups (16-oz capacity total) for hands-free double pumping." (it's right under Add to Cart- http://www.freemie.com/freemie-collection-cups/medela/medela-25mm).  I'm going to have to disagree with that one, Freemie.

This was harder to experiment but basically I measured out water and added it to the cups and then put them back on and tried to pump to evaluate suction as the valve gets covered.  I'm happy to say that they did not leak where the two halves of the cup connect which is a worry I have (they connect like tupperware).

Now, look at your boobs and think about how the Freemie would be positioned.  Mostly upright, correct?  I held these against my boobs and then kept them steady as I moved them out and photographed the water level.

This is 4 ounces.  At this point, suction stopped, and no more water would go down the valve, even with the pump on.  This absolutely seems like the "overfill" line to me.  I went back and checked to see if Freemie said "8oz total" and I misread.  Nope.  There is water in the tube where you nipple goes in this photo.  It literally would not go down into the cup.

I could not fill them with 8 oz unless I lay them down flat, filled, snapped on the top, and lifted them upright, at which most of the extra ounces leaked out the collection hole.  Seriously.  How does Freemie say that these hold 8 ounces each?  

I am considering one more experiment in the morning when I regularly pump 9 oz from one boob alone but I don't want to waste any breast milk, so we'll see if I am brave enough to try.